I majored in English when I first came to college. I had great English teachers at my high school. I remember we had to diagram the Gettysburg Address and I loved every minute of it. Yes sir re Bob, I was going to make a great English teacher. Brooke High even offered a Word Study course that I absolutely loved. And it really came in handy in one of my English classes when I went off to college. Very handy.
I had some dandy English teachers in college. I had one who spit when he talked, so I tried to sit in the back in his class. I had one who spoke so softly I had to sit in front and still strain to hear. I had one who invited us all to his farm for the winter and summer solstice. He sat on his desk, swinging his feet, clad in dirty shit-stomping boots, smoking a pipe. I think he was high a lot. And I had one who scared the hell out of me. I don’t know why. But, he was a great English teacher and he loved poetry.
One day he announced to the class that he wanted our next paper to amaze him. He said that he wanted us to write about a subject that he never heard about before. Something that would “emit shock, surprise, or bewilderment.” I remember those exact words. “People, I want you to astound me. I have been teaching for many years, and I have had maybe 3 people who have received A’s for this assignment. I am a rough crowd.”
He gave us 2 weeks to write the paper. It was worth a lot of points and I worked very, very hard on it. Actually, I was able to write it fairly quickly. The polishing took a great while. I was a nervous wreck when I turned it in, because I was almost certain he never heard about my topic, and I was almost certain I could be kicked out of his class for what I wrote. I did read the final copy to my mom and asked her if I should turn it in. She thought that if I had to shock him, this would do it. So, I turned it in.
Several days later, he quietly passed back the papers. I didn’t get mine back. As he returned to the podium, he just look blankly at me and said, “I need to see you, Miss Mendenhall, after class, if that is ok with you.” I sheepishly nodded my head. I was in deep shit. I could just tell. My topic was going to get me an F, and I was going to be sent to the dean. I just knew it.
After class, I slowly walked to his office. I stopped and got a drink of water from the water fountain, went to the bathroom, because I felt like I was going to puke. I stopped at his doorway and I could see him sitting at his desk. He was looking at me, holding my paper. Dear God, he was waiting for me.
“So, Miss Mendenhall,” he began. He held up my paper. “Is this true?” I nodded. “Yes, I learned about it in our Word Study class at Brooke High School.” He seemed surprised.
He told me I was gutsy. That I had a fire inside me. (Ok, was this going to be good, or was it a bad fire inside me?) He asked me to sit down. “I have never had a student write ANYTHING like this before in my class. EVER.” He said that I was a risk-taker, and that he liked that. And that’s why he gave me an A. Not just any old A, but an A+. He asked if he could make a copy of my paper. He already had anywho, and handed mine back. Wow, I did get an A. Who would think that a paper about fornication would awe someone. Yeah, fornication. Written by a college freshman who was naive and who had no first hand knowledge at that time about what she wrote about. But, I think I was creative and knew how to put together sentences. (Unlike now. My grammar leaves much to be desired. But, hey, it’s blogging. There are no rules, right?)
In our word study class, way back in 1974, we learned that the word, F*ck, was actually not a word, but an acronym. It supposedly meant For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Jailers who brought in prostitutes or rapists, would record the arrest in a book, using the initials. (I just found out that it was never proved to be so, but in 1974 we didn’t have the internet, with snopes.com or Urban Myth to dispute this claim.)
I wrote about the different synonyums for f*ck over the years…Making love, having sex, fornication, “Doing it”, intercourse, screwing, copulation, coitus, sleeping with, hump, bang, roll in the hay, get laid,and nooky, among others. I thought I did a great job with the whole beginning, middle and end of a composition. Like I said, I did work hard on polishing it. I remember asking my friends one night for the synonyms, and they were having fun talking about the different sayings.
When I walked out of my professor’s office, I felt like I could be a writer. I never once thought any less of myself for the topic I chose. I thought I was following directions for the assignment. He wanted to be shocked.
Too bad I took my first grammar class the next semester and received a D- on the PRE-TEST on the first day of class. Seems that I didn’t really learn too much grammar in high school like I thought. Hell, I thought I was going to be the best English teacher in the world..or West Virginia…I went into a mini-tailspin, and then dropped my English major to a minor and changed my major to Speech Communications and Drama. Yeah, that major hooks a job right after graduation. Not a bright move. But, I was a little bummed that Miss English here didn’t know shit about English.
So, I am now a fourth grade teacher. I know you are wondering how I managed that out of a Speech Communication degree, but I shall save that for another day.
I know that I still have that English composition. It is somewhere in one of several boxes of old school materials in the attic of my former home. I specifically remember thinking that I needed to save this paper for when I get older.
I think I will just keep it up in the attic. I’ll let my kids find it when I am gone, so they will be surprised by their dear old mom.
Shock and awe…